David Chang's Tongs Takedown

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Last week's New Yorker featured a profile of culinary it-boy David Chang and his trio of restaurants, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, and (brand new) Momofuku Ko. A lot of attention has been paid to the article's discussion of Chang's pefectionism, neuroses, and stress in dealing with the incredible amount of praise he has received. Others have obsessed over passages hinting at the possibility of a palatial Momofuku outlet opening in Vegas or even Dubai.

But, it was another passage that I found even more intriguing. It recalls an outburst by Chang when he discovered some shoddy technique by his cooks at the Noodle Bar:

At Noodle Bar, a junior line cook had been cooking chicken for family meal— lunch for the staff—and although he had to cook something like seventy-five chicken pieces and the stoves were mostly empty, he’d been cooking them in only two pans, which meant that he was wastiing time he could have spent helping to prep for dinner. Also, he was cooking with tongs, which was bad technique, it ripped the food apart, it was how you cooked at T.G.I. Friday’s—he should have been using a spoon or a spatula. Cooking with tongs showed disrespect for the chicken, disrespect for family meal, and, by extension, disrespect for the entire restaurant.

Disrespect? For using tongs!

I have no formal training as a chef, but I love using my tongs. When I cook, they're like an extension of my hands. Of course, I wouldn't use them to flip a delicate fish filet for fear of tearing it apart, but they seem to do the job perfectly with chicken (at least for me).

So, have I been a disrespectful cook all these years? What do you think, home cooks and pros, tong lovers and haters? Is tong technique acceptable or should it only be reserved for cheesy restaurant chains?


 





Comments

I don't believe it to be disrespectful to the food and therefore to the restaurant. Tongs are a useful kitchen utensil and I've witnessed Chefs at 4 star and 5 star restaurants using tongs to rotate things like chicken or different cuts of beef.

However, seeing as chefs are typically obsessive perfectionists I would just do it the way the chef either trained me or told me to do it. If the chef doesn't wants tongs used in his kitchen then they shouldn't be there in the first place, period.

 

When I go, my tongs go with me... I move a lot and often live with other people but there are certain things that always go with me: my small whisk, my GOOD knives (1 paring, 1 large chopping), the tongs (ok, I can get by with yours BUT let's make sure there is a decent set of tongs in the house, ok- really, one of the most versatile pieces of equipment).

YES, world, I cook with tongs.

 

I'm a tong user, and love them! I don't see using tongs as being disrespectful to the food... that's really reaching if you ask me. They are one of my most useful utensils.

 

I was trained at a culinary school in NYC, and in class we used tongs for all types of meat except very thing slices of veal and fish. The upscale restaurants I later worked at had line cooks using tongs for meat too.

I agree with the idea that David Chang can do whatever he wants at his restaurant, but he should understand that's his own quirk. To assume that everyone with an "respect" for meat should automatically not use tongs is ridiculous.

 

Ruhlman's The Elements of Cooking made a similar comment, that meat should be flipped with spatulas and not tongs. I've always used tongs myself, but when doing BBQ competitions I do use spatulas for that very reason - I get graded down on appearance if the meat doesn't look its best, so I guess I can understand. But at home it's all tongs all the time.

 

The real issue is technique. If the line cook is butchering the chicken in the pan it does show disrespect of his craft,the ingredients and yes the restaurnt that he represents every day. My guess is that Chef Chang was trying to imprees on the line cook that even staff meal should be his best effort. However every professional cook has their favorite tool and my experience is that if you let them use what they are most comfortable with and stress quality in the finished product you get better results and spend less time policing them.

 

Tongs have no place in a REAL kitchen. I completely agree with David Chang. I learned a long time ago from Bradley Ogden that using tongs is amateur--and if you feel the need, then use 2 spoons, like (what is it called, Russian style??) servers do when picking up pieces of bread and whatnot. So, yes: tongs ARE disrespectful. Go work at Denny's or BLTSteak....

 

David Chang and I both went to the same cooking school. They taught us how to use the TONGS, which we did all the time and we always treated the food with full respect. His anti-tong thing is just that - his thing. It has nothing to do with being an amateur. It's his kitchen so if he says no tongs, then no tongs. But if tongs work for you, go for it. There is nothing wrong with using tongs!

 

Tongs are for shoe-makers.

 

Banning Tongs in the Kitchen!...........I find that to be rather subjective.........similar to the "Burn the Bra" movement.

 

Listen to the man! He's the genius. he's telling you the true story. Don't let your ideas get in the way.

 

Tongs are far better than forks, which pierce the meat & let juices drain out.

 

Tongs are far better than forks, which pierce the meat & let juices drain out.

 

Tongs are far better than forks, which pierce the meat & let juices drain out.

 

I have been a professional cook for almost as many years as I have been on alive. My tongs are an extension of my right hand & there is NOTHING that I cant do with them. I have nothing but respect for anything in my kitchen & use tongs for everything. If DC needs a few lessons in how to use them, I would be more then happy to show him a thing or two.......

 

I have been a professional cook for almost as many years as I have been on alive. My tongs are an extension of my right hand & there is NOTHING that I cant do with them. I have nothing but respect for anything in my kitchen & use tongs for everything. If DC needs a few lessons in how to use them, I would be more then happy to show him a thing or two.......

 

Protip: It's fine to use tongs but Chang is right in asking his staff to strive to make everything perfect. My hands can barely feel anything thanks to them being my true right hand and forging an extension of my right hand. It's cleaner, easier, tastier and visually more appealing.

Cowards.

 

Nice article but too long.Thanks for the nice work.Hope next time it will be short.

 

A cutout in the raised cutting board allows you to insert a plate and slide your freshly cut ingredients directly onto the plate as you do your prep work.

 

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